Randall L. Kennedy, What Makes Laws Unjust?, in Rethinking Law (Amy Kapczynski ed., 2022).
Abstract: According to King: "All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. [...]King insists on distinguishing his disobedience of law from that of his antagonists: "In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. FOUR YEARS AFTER King wrote "Letter from Birmingham Jail," the Supreme Court upheld King’s conviction for contempt of court even if the injunction he violated was itself illegal. When Justice Potter Stewart quipped in the case, Walker v. City of Birmingham, that "respect for judicial process is a small price to pay for the civilizing hand of law," he sided with those who feared that protest had gotten out of hand; who believed that assertions of individual conscience had degenerated into egotistical pretensions; who held that talk of civil disobedience threatened to unleash chaos, and that attraction to King and sympathy for the sufferings of African Americans had tempted too many to abandon conventions that are crucial to stability in a large, complex, conflicted polity.